In Praise of Tests
As we pulled out of our driveway in Northern Washington, I suddenly started sobbing. The gut-wrenching kind of sob that makes you blow a lot of snot on your hand. We just finished our gorgeous new home that we’ve been fully consumed with working on for two years—about a week ago—and now I am abandoning it for several months to walk north and sleep in the dirt. Sometimes timing is an odd bitch.
Before rolling out of town we stopped in at our attorney’s office to sign our will. More sobering timing.
Finally hopping on Highway 5 to head south, I turned to my husband Chris, to declare the current reality check so that I could shift my mindset and tame the wobbly yo-yo feeling I was having. “Over the next week, with a couple of stops, we’ll be driving the length of the country, all the way down to the Mexican Border. You will drop me off in the middle of nowhere next to an ugly wall. I am then going to turn around and travel north, the length of the country, all the way back up to Washington, where we started—ON FOOT. Holy shit!”
I paused for a bit to acknowledge all our hard work on our beautiful new home, wiped the tears dry, and then started the task of final organization.
Having spent the majority of my life traveling the world racing and adventuring, I’ve gotten very familiar with compartmentalizing stressors. A difficult highly emotional moment (yo-)—leaving the brand new house—can get put into perspective quickly as I declare focus on the next task at hand—final organizing for walking across the country (yo). Sometimes this type of yo-yo can make us feel out of balance. Or worse. Until we stop the wobbly yo-yo in mid-air. STOP! Once we do that we can choose which direction we’ll toss it next. It’s a guarantee that stuff will get out of balance again. We stop it again. Then choose a new direction, again.
I know all this, but I will forget it time and again. So I’m sharing this with you to remind myself that I need to remember it, solidly, for the next five months.
Yo-Yo aside, I’m over the moon excited about this journey on the PCT. But I’m even more intrigued knowing that I will be repeatedly tested. And then again. Which brings me to that Why question.
Addressing the ‘Why’ in one tiny blog post is like trying to tame the large male bull elephant in the room. I’ll be tossing this around this much more over the next few months. But here are a few snippets.
Crazy times of unnatural isolation became a natural call to adventure planning. I decided way back before the world closed its doors on a pandemic, and then affirmed the decision in tumultuous 2020—that 2021 would be the year to hike the PCT. I will turn 60 years old on the trail this year. The timing seemed to work in various ways. So I took advantage of the lockdown and formulated my plan.
Since getting married a couple of years ago, my life has been full of love and comfort and building two lives into one amazing one (literally and figuratively). This is all wonderful, yummy, life-changing stuff, but it has been mostly void of big juicy physical/mental tests. The kind that pushes you around in a challenging manner and exposes your vulnerableness. The kind that ultimately makes you hard inside and out, in an adaptable sort of way. The kind I’ve been attracted to my whole life. So I seek tests.
A giant hike is also lots of time in my head. Time to observe, to evaluate today, and then look forward and formulate how I want to spend the rest of my time on the earth this time around. So I look forward to lots of thinking and writing.
My Pre-Hike Gratitude
I have a niece who is blind and she currently has a slew of other health issues that have prevented her from walking much. We’ve decided that while I am walking the trail, she is going to be starting to walk more with the new walker she just got. I always record sounds when I hike, like rivers and waterfalls, and then text them to her. She has instructed me to record a lot of bird sounds. I’m going to try and catch a rattling sound from a rattlesnake and see if she can guess what it is (don’t tell her…).
Last week in our parting texts, she offered an important reminder: “It’s amazing how much people take walking and seeing, breathing easily, sleeping well, all those things for granted. It isn’t until you pause and examine these things, mindfully, daily, that you realize that we take them for granted.”
My pre-hike gratitude is for Sarah and her reminder of how fortunate I am that I desire to and am able to, take on this challenging hike. So Grateful. Along with yo-yo taming, I shall remember her wise words.
And We’re Off!
With vaccine shot #1 in arm (the second to happen in a month on trail), we take off tomorrow to drive south to be on the Mexican border by the end of the week. Chris will be trail-angeling intermittently along the way. If you need anything on trail, look for Wolverine (my trail name), or Pooh Bare (his trail name) and we’ll see what we can do to help out.
Very Happy Yo-Yo Taming to All,
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Wishing you a good and safe trip. Maybe I will see you when you come off the Hat Creek Rim. I trail angel there when I can. I am looking forward to more hikers this year. Best of luck on your journey.
Good luck on your PCT hike. Looking forward to your posts on your hike. David Odell AT71 PCT72 CDT77